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Mount Kenya Holidays

  • Mount Kenya
 

The second tallest mountain in Africa, Mount Kenya is about 150 km northeast of Nairobi and is protected in the Mount Kenya National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a stand-alone extinct volcano, and the fertile soil on its lower slopes supports the market towns on the road that circles the mountain. Although it’s not as popular a climb as Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, trekkers will be well rewarded with the trek up through montane forest and giant bamboo and lobelia to the snow line. 

The 2800-sq-km Mount Kenya National Park straddles the equator about 200 km northeast of Nairobi. Mount Kenya, or Kirinyaga (the shining mountain), also sometimes referred to as the black-and-white striped mountain, is the sacred mountain of the Kikuya (Gikuya) people, who believe that it is where their god ‘Ngai’ lives. The Kikuyu, who live on the slopes always build their homes facing this sacred peak. 

As you drive around the road that circles Mount Kenya you will spend much of the time looking towards the mountain – however, it is often shrouded in cloud. There are some clear days; otherwise very early in the morning or just before nightfall the cloud will often lift suddenly, revealing the snow-capped peaks for a few minutes.

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Mount Kenya has a vital role in ecosystems in the area. It is Kenya’s most important watershed and its largest forest reserve, and the lower slopes make up the country’s richest farmlands. The dramatic landscape includes glaciers, moraines, waterfalls, precarious-looking rock pinnacles and hanging valleys. At the very top is permanent ice in some 11 glacier lakes, though due to global warming these are shrinking fast and seven glaciers have disappeared in the last 100 years.

The upper base of the mountain is nearly 100 km across; the peak area is formed from the hard core or plug of the volcano, the crater having long since eroded away, and rises steeply on all sides some 450 m above the glaciers and scree slopes. Only experienced climbers can climb the highest peaks of Nelion (5199 m) or Batian (5189 m) at the summit of Mount Kenya, as this involves the use of ropes, ice-axes, crampons and other specialized climbing gear. The third highest peak is Point Lenana (4985 m), which can be reached by any fit walker if they are suitably equipped.

Wild animals on Mount Kenya do not normally come into contact with hikers and, because of the dense forest, most species are rarely seen. Nevertheless, the lower forest and bamboo zones are home to elephant, buffalo, eland, bushbuck, waterbuck, zebra, hyena, leopard, colobus monkey and white-throated guegnon, and common at higher altitudes is the ubiquitous Mount Kenya rock hyrax. About 130 species of bird have been recorded in the park. 

 

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